About the Book
This is the fourth in the series of guidebooks being published by the Archaeological Survey of India to showcase the World Cultural Heritage Sites in India. It focuses on the temples of Khajuraho in central India, the cultural capital of the Chandella dynasty.
The Chandella rules were great patrons of art and architecture and, between the 10th and the 12the centuries, studded Khajuraho with some 85 temples, only 25 of which remain today. These temples are justly famed for their wealth of sculptural decoration. The whole pageant of life and its many pleasures is played out on its stone walls.
The temples that comprise the Western Group are the most visited and undoubted comprise the most beautiful temples at Khajuraho and form the core of the book. The temples of the Eastern and Southern Groups have also been dealt with in detail.
A comprehensive Practical Information section tells the visitor how to get to Khajuraho, what to de there, where to stay and where to eat.
From the back of the Book
This guidebook on the temples of Khajuraho, published by the Archaeological Survey of India, is the fourth in the World Heritage Series. Situated in the heart of the Bundelkhand region, Khajuraho was once the capital of the Chandella dynasty and a centre of great artistic activity. It witnessed the building of a large number of magnificent temples between the 10the and the 12the centuries. Marked by lofty spires, each of these temples stands majestically on a high platform or jagati that adds height and dignity to the structures, and also provides an open ambulatory space around them.
Each temple is embellished with intricate carvings of gods and goddess, warriors, musicians, real and mythical animals, and, of course, the celestial nymphs. The sculptures are exquisitely proportioned and depict life in medieval times. The sun glinting off the fine-grained sandstone of these stone figures is, perhaps, one of the most spectacular sights ever seen.
Khajuraho is known for its ornate temples that are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. These temples were built by the Chandella rulers between AD 900 and 1130. The first recorded mention of the Khajuraho temples is in the accounts of Abu Rihan al Biruni (AD 1022) and the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta (AD 1355).
Local tradition lists 85 temples in Khajuraho, out of which only 25 survive in various stages of preservation. But for the temples of Chausath-yogini, Lalguan-Mahadeva and Brahma, which are constructed of granite, the other temples are built of fine-grained sandstone of varying shades.
The Khajuraho group of temples has been inscribed on the World Heritage list for their 'outstanding universal value' and 'human creative genius'. To make this important destination more tourist friendly and to give emphasis to the sustained development of the environment, a large tract of vacant land has been acquired for setting up an interpretation centre and for facilitating a better visitor movement plan. Effective signage and landscaping is a part of the new Master Plan, along with modern public conveniences. Archaeological excavations of the ancient mounds to unravel the hidden history of the site will also be taken up on a large-scale.
Khajuraho is one of the few sites in India where a large number of loose sculptures of different pantheons have been found. A state-of-the-art museum is being planned at a site close to the Western Group of temples.
With the implementation of the above programmes, Khajuraho will develop into a great hub of activity, incorporating elements of culture, tourism and clean civic life. Our overall endeavour is to ensure that the tourist to India should get physically invigorated, mentally rejuvenated, culturally enriched and spiritually elevated and, on his return to his country, should feel India within him.
The Chandellas who ruled over Jejakabhukti in central India between 9th and 13th century AD were a Rajput tribe of mixed blood claiming descent from the Moon through the legendary sage Chandratreya. Tradition ascribed their origin to Maniyagadh, a hill fort about 19 kms south of Khajuraho, named after their family deity with Sakta attributes whose shrine still exists at Maniyagadha and Mahoba.
The earlier Chandella chiefs were local geudatories of the imperial Pratiharas, who had gained paramountcy in north India after the break up of Harshavardhana's empire in the middle of the 7th century.
The Chandellas gradually grew in power to emerge as one of the most stable kingdoms of central India. When Mahamud Ghazni scythed through upper India in the 11th century, they lost their prized fortress of Kalinjar to him, soon recovered it. And when, towards the end of the 12th century, Muhammad of Ghur invaded the land and crippled many important ruling families of north India, the Chandellas held firm against him.
The tract around Khajuraho was known during ancient times as Vats, in medieval times as Jejakabhukti and since the 14th century as Bundelkhand. Jejakabhukti or Jhajhauti, the land the Chandellas held sway over, was steeped in culture and refinement. This region had played a significant role in Indian cultural history from 200 BC, witnessing a remarkable efflorescence of sculptural and architectural arts during the Sunga period, with Bharhut as its centre. Against, between 4th and 6th century, during the Gupta reign, there was a resurgence of the arts, with leading centres at Bhumara, Khoh, Nachna and Deogarh, all of which boast significant temples.
Under the Chandella princes, who were great builders and patrons of the arts and letters, Jejakabhukti, was swept by a cultural upheaval, which manifested itself in the flowering of an architectural movement of uncommon vigour. The Chandellas dotted their realm with forts and palaces, tanks and temples, which were mainly concentrated in their strongholds of Mahoba (ancient Mahotsava-nagara), Kalinjar (ancient Kalanjara) and Ajaygarh (ancient Jayapura-durga) and, to a lesser extent, in the towns of Dudhai, Chandpur, Madanpur and Deogarh in the present Jhansi district.
But none of these places could compare in magnificence with Khajuraho (in ancient times Kharjjuravahaka), which the Chandellas exalted as one of their capitals. Today, it is little more than a village; but that it must have been an imposing city is attested by its ruins spread over 21 sq kms. Abu-Rihan al Biruni, who visited India with Mahmud Ghazni in the early 11th century, speaks of the realm of 'Jejahuti', with 'Kajuraha' as its capital. Ibn Battuta, who visited India in the 14th century, refers to Khajuraho as 'Kajarra', where there is a great pond, about a mile in length, near which are temples containing idols that the Muslims have mutilated'. The Chandellas adorned Khajuraho with numerous tanks and scores of lofty temples, each vying with the other in sculptural grace and architectural splendour. According to local tradition, the place originally had 85 temples, but only 25 now stand in varying stages of preservation.
There was a spurt in temple-building from the 9th-10th century onwards, which was a natural corollary of the resurgence of Hinduism during that period; and the temples of Khajuraho were a part of the same movement. The nagara or northern style of temple architecture reached its apogee during this period. The nagara temple was focused on a square sanctum, which acquired a cruciform shape on account of transepts on either side. It was also topped by a gently curvilinear sikhara or spire.
Today, there are no remains of any secular buildings in Khajuraho, a circumstance rendered surprising by the fact of its having been the Chandellas' capital city for a while. In fact, the Chandellas' siting of their cultural and religious centre at Khajuraho remains something of a mystery. The temple town sank from public consciousness soon after the Chandella dynasty expired in the 13th century, and remained 'lost' till 1838, when T S Burt, a British engineer, heard of it from his palkywallah and ventured into the forest in search of the 'wonders of a place called Khajrao'.
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